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How is the importance of the family expressed in traditional Chinese society?

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In traditional Chinese culture, a strong emphasis has long been placed on the attainment and maintenance of harmony in all social structures, beginning with the family.  Family is very important to the Chinese, and the retention of strong familial bonds across generations and among extended relations is highly prized.  The Chinese also maintain a reverence for older generations, often in sharp contrast to the American model, where respect for one's elders is a bygone concept.  The elderly are treated with dignity and remain within the core family structure until death.

Knowledge of one's ancestoral history is integral to Chinese culture and to the notion of a social order.  Those who can trace their lineage to prominent or heroic ancestors are bestowed with a certain prestige hundreds or even thousands of years later.  Family bonds help determine one's place in the broader social hierarchy of Chinese society, although the introduction of capitalist economic practices and greater openness to outside influences has seen a minor transformation towards a more individualistic perspective among some young Chinese.  For the most part, however, family ties remain at the core of Chinese social structure, and the ancient notionof "four generations under one roof" remains an important part of Chinese culture.

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